Solar Hack Ignites Smart Card

From Left: Andy Babbitt, Nathan Witt, Mark Rice, W. Brandon Rogers and Rob Laucius.

From Left: Andy Babbitt, Nathan Witt, Mark Rice, W. Brandon Rogers and Rob Laucius made up Team Smart Card and took top honor’s at ELPC’s Solar Hack, Chicago’s first hackathon solely focused on advancing solar energy.

Solar Hack brought together members of Chicago’s design and technology communities and paired them with members of the region’s solar energy community. The event offered guidance on data and challenges related to the developing solar industry and asked: How will you make it better?

A team combining the know-how of three Chicago technology veterans, the strategy of a LEED certified attorney, and the entrepreneurial spirit of an energy company executive took top honors with a plan to incentive smart energy choices and drive users towards solar.

Florida is the sunshine state, but did you know Illinois receives 94 percent as much sunshine as Florida? Yet, solar power makes up only a tiny portion of our energy mix. Help us change that.

Solar works across the Midwest!                             Poster by Katie Ingersoll


What is Smart Card?

In a Friday evening brainstorm, team members Andy Babbitt, Rob Laucius, Mark Rice, W. Brandon Rogers and Nathan Witt coalesced around a plan to find a way to promote solar beyond the traditional “payback period” model.

Saturday morning, the team had its plan, they would create a tool based on behaviors that rewards smart choices that reduce energy waste and promotes the idea of creating your own energy for increasing rewards. The team maximized the strength of its members, Rice is an energy entrepreneur, Rogers is a LEED certified attorney, Babbitt , Laucius and Witt are all experienced developers. Babbitt entered the team as a designer based on former experience.

“Our new venture combines the fun and engagement of gaming with the economics and environmental aspects of being a smart consumer of energy,” said Mark Rice, a member of Team Smart Card and CEO of Energy Connection in Northbrook.

By Saturday night, the team had a working prototype, a business plan and nifty presentation that explained the promise of their concept.

Smart Card will be an online space that aggregates data on smart energy choices and sets up a dashboard where users can track their progress cutting energy waste and creating their own energy through renewable energy installations.  Smart Card allows for competition between users to be “more green.” Additionally, by connecting companies with customers who make sustainable choices, Smart Card can reward users. Finally, through dashboard prompts, Smart Cart users can learn about opportunities to go solar and connect with solar installers in their area.

“Working in solar the idea of having high value, well-educated leads is very appealing,” said Lisa Albrecht of Solar Sevice, and advisor to the event.

Jon Weers, a senior software engineer from the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado and judge for the event commended the concept for its innovative approach, which allows users to make a game out of smart energy choices.


About Solar Hack

Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Solar Hack coupled members of Chicago’s bustling technology and design communities, with members of the region’s solar energy businesses to brainstorm and advance ideas that would solve soft-challenges like customer education and lead generation. The goal of the event was to advance digital tools that could create the foundation of a business, advancing ELPC’s pillar that environmental progress and economic development go hand-in-hand. The event was held over two days, Friday, November 8th and Saturday, November 9th at the IdeaShop at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

At Friday's Solar Hack kickoff, Matt Whitehill of SoCore Energy (standing) brainstorms with participants.

At Friday’s Solar Hack kickoff, Matt Whitehill of SoCore Energy (standing) brainstorms with participants.

More than 30 participants registered to be a part of Solar Hack and were introduced to challenges facing solar, and to publicly available data  that may be used to address these challenges.

“If the goal was to get people thinking about solar, you did it,” said Babbitt. “Before yesterday, I never really thought about solar for Chicago.  Now, I’m going to spend some time thinking about how to make it work.”

“Solar Hack was a great step in using technology to advance clean, renewable energy here in Chicago and across the Midwest,” said David Jakubiak, media relations manager with ELPC. “We hope more great tools will grow out of the interest stimulated by Solar Hack.”

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